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Videocard Upgrade: 630i Desktop - Need Advice

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I have a 5 1/2 year old Dell XPS 630i Desktop, which generally runs quite well, with adequate power for most purposes.  Recently put in a 125gb SSD as the OS drive.

Anyway, in the last several days, there have been some random video artifacts sporadically showing up on one or both of my dual Viewsonic monitors (DVI for both, from the Nvidia 9800GT 512mb Videocard).  Small sections of the display will have weird characters, sometimes a band of screen will be blinking, etc.  And a couple of times there's been a BSOD crash, with the video driver (nvlddmkm.sys) being responsible.

I figure it has to be a bad videocard, or driver.  I updated to the most recent driver at Dell's site (R213185, 181.30, Vista 64, A04), and so far so good.  But I have this sneaking suspicion that it's a hardware issue.  If it were a driver problem, why now, after all these years, would there suddenly be problems, with no recent system changes, etc.

I used Dell's Diagnostic tools, which tested out the Videocard's performance, memory, etc., and no errors were detected, which is encouraging.

I'm posting here, to look for advice, in case the Videocard does end up being the problem, and in need of replacement.

1.  If I do decide to replace it, what are some good recommendations for a new Videocard for this system (Core 2 Quad Q6600, 2.40 GHz, 6gb RAM).  I don't want to overkill, and pay for potential Videocard performance I wouldn't be obtaining with the older motherboard, CPU, RAM, etc.

2.  The current system is sufficient for most purposes, with the main shortcoming being slow performance when working on my Canon DSLR Raw files in Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop, viewing HD Video from camcorder or other sources, etc.  In this regard, would replacing the Videocard yield a substantial improvement in this type of performance?

3.  Would I be better off just replacing the whole desktop with something newer?

Any thoughts, perspective appreciated.

Don

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RE: Videocard Upgrade: 630i Desktop - Need Advice

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Video card drivers can become corrupt and simply uninstalling them and updating them with a new driver can fix the problem.  It is more likely a driver problem than a hardware problem even though the 9800 GT is an old card.  If it was not pushed hard with gaming over the years then it can last a long time. The XPS 630i is a nice system and with the Q6600 it is still worthy and can perform quite well.  If you were to replace the video card, I would just get something simple like the GTX 650 HERE, that would exceed the performance of the 9800 GT and not cost much.  

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RE: Videocard Upgrade: 630i Desktop - Need Advice

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Video card drivers can become corrupt and simply uninstalling them and updating them with a new driver can fix the problem.  It is more likely a driver problem than a hardware problem even though the 9800 GT is an old card.  If it was not pushed hard with gaming over the years then it can last a long time. The XPS 630i is a nice system and with the Q6600 it is still worthy and can perform quite well.  If you were to replace the video card, I would just get something simple like the GTX 650 HERE, that would exceed the performance of the 9800 GT and not cost much.  

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RE: Videocard Upgrade: 630i Desktop - Need Advice

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Many thanks for the prompt, and very helpful reply.  I'm not a gamer, so the card hasn't been stressed.

I'll see what happens over the next few days and weeks, and if the problem doesn't recur, then it is almost certainly a driver issue, as you suggest.

If it recurs, the GTX650 looks like a fairly cost-effective solution.  Do you think there would be a substantial improvement in performance when I work on my DSLR Raw files in Camera Raw and Photoshop, playiing HD video, etc.?  If so, it might be worth the $100 or so, even if my current card continues to function.

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RE: Videocard Upgrade: 630i Desktop - Need Advice

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Update:

I woke up this morning to the login screen for Windows, with resolution appearing to be at standard VGA.  I logged in, and encountered a report of a BSOD.  Went to change display resolution, and the usual choices were unavailable.  Checked Device Manager, and found the Nvidia Display Adapter 9800GT with the Yellow "!".  Checking this, I discovered:

Windows has stopped this device because it has reported problems (Code 43)

Further checking found:

Could not load Driver Software

Problem signature:
Problem Event Name: PnPDeviceProblemCode
Architecture: x64
Hardware Id: PCI\VEN_10DE&DEV_0614&SUBSYS_063010DE&REV_A2
Setup class GUID: {4d36e968-e325-11ce-bfc1-08002be10318}
PnP problem code: 0000002B
Driver name: nvlddmkm.sys
Driver version: 7.15.11.8130
Driver date: 12-31-2008
OS Version: 6.0.6002.2.2.0.768.3
Locale ID: 1033

Attempts to update the driver were unsuccessful, with Windows reporting the best driver was already installed.

I'll do some googling on these messages, but first impression is that this indicates hardware failure.

Any thoughts on this??

Thanks.

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RE: Videocard Upgrade: 630i Desktop - Need Advice

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A reboot of the computer restored everything to normal, with the Nvidia Adapter recognized and current driver installed properly, and display back to normal.

Further indication of a hardware issue?

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RE: Videocard Upgrade: 630i Desktop - Need Advice

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Continued crashes; display artifacts once were present during the boot stage, before even loading windows, which as far as I can see pretty much eliminates drivers as the problem.

Had a look at Best Buy's options (might be nice to be able to quickly and easily return if problems or compatibility issues occur), and found this:

http://www.bestbuy.com/site/geforce-gt-640-2gb-ddr3-pci-express-3-0-superclocked-graphics-card/56082...

Similar to the one suggested in the first reply, similar price, more RAM.  Thoughts?

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RE: Videocard Upgrade: 630i Desktop - Need Advice

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The GTX 650 is better than the GT 640.  It does not matter about the ram.  It's a faster chip.  Best Buy carries very few video cards in stock anymore if any.  You will have to order it and have it shipped to the store.  I guess you could return it to the store, but they would still have to order you another one if it did not work.  

I would take the 9800 GT out of your case and make sure it is cleaned if you have not done so in the past with a can of compressed air to clean up any dust accumulation.  Reseat the card.  I would try downloading a driver directly from Nvidia's website and install it to see how it works.  The driver for the 9 series is probably going to be the same as the driver for the newest video cards.  

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RE: Videocard Upgrade: 630i Desktop - Need Advice

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Interestingly, I received the email about your post about 30 seconds after I placed my order for the GTX 650 with Amazon.  I found it there for $113, and EVGA has a $20 mail-in-rebate for this card, for a net price of $93.  I'm a Prime customer, so I should have it Thursday, no cost shipping.

I spent a lot of the day researching options, and learning about the various videocards, and ended up deciding that your original recommendation was likely the best option.  Best Buy, while convenient, didn't have anything locally worth considering.

I haven't had the time to remove, clean and reseat the card, but that is a good suggestion.  As per my last post, the fact that the display shows video artifacts during the initial boot-up, before Windows enters the picture at all, pretty much says it's not a driver issue.

I'll try removing/cleaning/reseating before I open the package for the new card, since I'll have to remove it anyway, but I'd be pretty surprised if this changes anything.

Many thanks for your help.

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